IT WAS the moment that the city has waited five years for.
South Parade Pier returned in shimmering style today as the ribbon was cut and thousands flooded out onto the walkways and into a bustling arcade.
There was a celebratory mood among the gatherers as families and friends tasted the Solent breeze and marvelled at the Victorian structure.
For co-owner Tommy Ware Jnr, it marked a momentous moment following years of delays and scepticism as to whether the pier would ever open again.
He told The News: ‘This is a great achievement for me and my family.
‘It has been a mammoth task to get to this point and we know there’s more to come, but we wanted to give the people the opportunity to get back on to the pier. We’ve had a great crowd here today and I hope they all enjoy themselves.’
Mr Ware Jnr and his father Tommy Ware Snr took over ownership of the Grade II-listed site in 2014 after it had been closed for safety reasons in 2012. They have since spent £5m on repairs to the structure.
While visitors were only able to walk out to just past the former Albert Tavern Bar, Mr Ware Jnr said guests could be walking to the end of the pier soon.
He added: ‘We are hoping to have it opened by the end of the summer. It could be August.’
The structure has been subject to court restrictions over the last few years and magistrates would have to lift the final part of the order to allow people to walk to the end of the pier.
The honours of reopening the pier was handled by Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor David Fuller.
Ahead of cutting the ribbon and letting in the eager hundreds, he said: ‘It is an absolute pleasure to be invited to open up the first phase of this historic building. It is very much seen through the eyes of the people of Portsmouth as being in the same league as the Spinnaker Tower.
‘I have many fond memories of the pier when I was growing up and I think it is one of the city’s most amazing landmarks.’
Live music played out for the crowds over the course of the day with the party set to continue over the weekend as thousands more are expected to flood through its doors.
Restaurants, a zip wire, cafes and shops are all expected to open at the pier in the coming months.